Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wintergreen Falls on the Toxaway River

Cranefly Orchid blooming in Gorges State Park, NC

Wintergreen Falls on the Toxaway River

Dana Koogler & Cathy Howell
Sunday August 24, 2014

10 miles round trip

Working on the Carolina Mountain Club Waterfall 100 Challenge

Pictures are here: Wintergreen Falls Pix

    We went out to dinner at Lone Star Steak House on Saturday night.    It was delicious.
We had a nice leisurely dinner.    We had no plan for what to do on Sunday.
I had brought church clothes and was thinking we'd go to church on Sunday morning and spend the afternoon tubing in Davidson River and eating ice cream.   Cathy's preacher was out of town on  family trip
for a wedding so we played hooky from church.   Back at the house we lay down in the floor with the maps
and guidebooks and the cat and just wallered.   We were trying to hit upon a falls neither one had been to.

     I was daydreaming about the Middle Prong Wilderness and some falls we had seen
up there long ago with Rich and the gang.   We were not sure how to reach those as they had no names aside from the ones we gave them.   I am not really sure how we came up with the plan to go to Wintergreen
Falls on the Toxaway River.  I guess in reading and comparing "have you been heres?" it was the first one
we discussed that neither had visited.  It struck a chord and we both wanted to go.  Cathy said we'd best get to bed so we could get an early start.   We agreed to set our alarms for 7 am.  I was so excited it was hard to sleep at first.   I was a little concerned about how difficult it was going to be. I wanted to do something
hard and be up to the task. I wanted to start something hard and finish it!   I said a little prayer about it and went to sleep.  I woke up in the night turned the wrong way in the bed with my feet hanging out in space.
I dreamed strange things.

       We got ready to leave in the morning quickly.  I got my duffel bag and toiletries put together.
I planned on driving home in the evening. I had to be back to take Michael to school and to go to a doctors appointment on Monday.   I knew I'd be tired and not looking forward to the drive home after a tough days hike.   We arrived at the Frozen Creek access to Gorges State Park and there was only one car in the lot.
We began the long trudge down the Auger Hole Road.  It certainly is pretty. I had forgotten just how
pretty that area was.   I had sworn to keep the camera put up for most of the hike and limit the picture taking especially on the hike in.   We booked it and it only took us an hour and 30 minutes to travel the 3.1 miles to the right turn for Wintergreen Falls.  We had passed Chub Line Falls way down in the gorge.  I will make it back to see that one another day. It looks powerful and impressive!

      We rested briefly at the trail intersection.  We moved on  speedily. We tried to cover ground quickly on the actual trail since we knew we wouldn't make much time on the off trail portion.  We arrived at the end of the "trail" and had a very brief rest before we took on the off trail portion.   I ignored swimming holes and three smaller, but significant waterfalls on the way in on account of trying to focus and get there.
I did snap a few photos at this spot along the Toxaway.


Toxaway River with cardinal flower. 

The trail can still be seen here in this beautiful spot.  Partridge berry and moss cover the ground.
Just beyond here the track comes and goes or is lost all together.

   The off trail portion was a real bitch.  It involved picking the best way upstream for about a mile.  
Part of that took us up a cliff climb on the edge of a bluff. Thankfully someone else had flagged it with survey tape which really helped.   We came to the end of that part and tied off some rope to rappell down.  
We got to the last ledge and ran out of rope.   We were able to climb down that one because the ledge sloped and at the far end of it it was closer to the ground.  It made it a manageable distance to get down.
Soon after that I ended up in a yellow jackets nest in the middle of the "trail".  I got stung six times.
I was being chased and swarmed.  Cathy got stung once.  We dove into the creek to get away from the little
bastages.   It hurt like a sumbitch, but I knew I'd hurt worse tomorrow.  That's how bee stings do me.
We finally got our nerve up and got back to the task of heading upstream.   I was very discouraged and paranoid about getting stung anymore.    It was not long until Cathy said for me to look through the trees.
I could see a glint of white. We were within sight of it!  

       We worked our way out toward the river and around and over some big rocks. 
I had already made up my mind I was NOT going above the falls. My ordeal on Flat Laurel Creek convinced me I was beyond my pay grade doing that sort of thing.   We approached the massive, roaring Wintergreen Falls at last.   A golden eagle rose from a downed tree in the plunge pool and flew into the forest down the Toxaway.   It was a benediction.    I was thrilled that we had made it.   It was an answered prayer.   I took pictures. I got in the water and cooled off my bee stings and briar scratches.  I had felt a blood vessel break in my right eye which was now bruised and sore.   I have only had the experience once before where I was so upset at what it took to reach a waterfall... that I did not enjoy being there.  All I could think on was what we had to do to get back out.  The first time was that Gragg Prong debacle.
Today was only slightly better.  I finally was able to choke down part of lunch.  I calmed down and 
tried to enjoy being there.   

Massive Wintergreen Falls on the Toxaway River.  The photo doesn't do it justice.

     Cathy and I are a good team.  We made it here. We'd make it back.   Each trip together. Each difficulty overcome bonds us and forges us as both better friends and a stronger team.    We managed to avoid the bees on the way back out.  We found the spot to climb back up the rope. Going up was a lot easier than coming down.  The cliff climb was still tough, but we made it faster and easier having done it once today already.    Once we got back to the intersection near the Toxaway where the real trail starts we were so glad!    We knew this would be our last chance to get in the water and it was hot and humid.  We got in the creek and soaked a long while.    We were doing good time wise.   The river felt good on my stings.
It washed away the sweat and heat.  I felt better about life.   We faced the long trudge back out.  Cathy turned out to be right. The hike back was mostly uphill which is harder to take when you're already tired.
We did it though.  We made it out in about 2 1/2 hours.   Back at the vehicle I changed clothes and it felt so good to be dry finally.   My legs were scratched and bruised and stung all to hell.   I was too tired to be hungry.   We had done it!   I told her on the hike back out I needed to take up a new hobby that was not so dangerous and difficult.  She told me she agreed and said I needed to take up quilting.
Below is a photo of the trail leading to the Toxaway where we went and got in the water.

What will the next episode bring? 

Flat Laurel Creek Hike

Yellow fringed orchid along the BRPW

Flat Laurel Creek Hike
 Dana Koogler & Catherine Howell
Sat. Aug 23, 2014
  5 miles round trip approx. 

Pictures here: Flat Laurel Creek Pix

      I had planned with my friend Cathy to come over to hike for the weekend. 
I wanted to spend some time with her. Just the two of us.   I told her I did not have any certain
place I had to go.  I said that the only place I was interested in and would suggest was that sometime during the month of September I'd like to go see Flat Laurel Creek and the falls.
I wanted to do the loop hike suggested in Kevin Adam's Best Wildflower Hikes guidebook.
The month of September is when he says its prettiest and the photos sure make it appear so.
I wanted to hike around the loop. I wanted to go up to the Sam Knob summit. I wanted to hike
down the slopes off the the Flat Laurel Creek trail to see the main waterfalls there.

    Cathy had hiked the Flat Laurel Creek area a number of times.  I more or less left it to her
to plan it out owing to her considerable experience.  She did ask me what I wanted to do and what I'd prefer and we decided this: We'd park at a point along the road near a bridge over Flat Laurel Creek.  We'd hike the manway along it and get in the creek and climb up the creek.  We would then get out onto the Flat Laurel Creek Trail and hike it back to the road and walk back down
to the vehicle.  Not sure of the mileage on that one, but it involved 2 miles of a road walk. 
No worries on that one.  I am guessing the mileage would be in the six or seven mile range. 

    We started out as planned.  It was beautiful. I was enjoying it.   The day was perfect weather.
Clear blue skies with a few puffy clouds.   The temperatures were in the mid eighties.
Hot enough for a dip in the water.   The stream had plenty of flow on it.  It was just perfect.
It was another one of those hikes where I was forced to face the facts about myself.   I am 
still dealing with a damaged brain bucket.   Going UP the creek was daunting for me.  I struggled
to continue past the extreme anxiety that it caused.  I finally got up the creek to the point just past where the Y falls is.   I was shaken and going out of my mind with anxiety about slipping or falling.
I was making extremely slow progress because of the way my balance and depth perception is.
I finally just said "I don't want to do this anymore." to which Cathy replied. "Its ok. We don't have to.  We'll turn around."  We did just that, but going back down was even worse for me.   
She was very supportive and helped me safely climb back down the creek.   I am fortunate to have
such an understanding friend who has never given up on me.  We made it back to the car 
and decided we'd try another approach.  

      We went up the road and parked at the trailhead for Flat Laurel Creek trail.
We got our packs and hiked out the trail far as Wildcat Falls. We had our lunch on the cement bridge parapet there by the waterfall.   It was beautiful.  The trail was easy and a blessed relief to 
me after the unsettling start to the day.   It was sunny, but the trail was deeply in shade most of the time.   We passed rows of paper birch trees that looked like  they were planted that way they were
so perfect.  
Beautiful blue skies and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance up the gorge.


Cathy standing along the edge of a chute we crept up.  This is one of the easy spots on Flat Laurel Creek.

  Wildcat Falls where we had lunch.  

Top Flat Laurel Creek Trail winding on through the balsams
Middle-- View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Flat Laurel Creek Trail
Bottom-- Rocky outcrop visible from Flat Laurel Creek Trail

      We hiked out the trail all the way to where the creek lives up to its name. It actually does 
flatten out!  Below that are lots of falls.   We were met originally at stream level by a few families.
Moments later things changed to about thirty college kids climbing up from the waterfalls below.
They were raucous and some complaining bitterly.   The spot was pretty, but over run with people.
We had thought we'd climb down to the falls.   On the trail we could see there were even MORE college kids and adults down there at the falls hollering and carrying on.   Cathy looked at me and asked "Do you really want to go down there?"  I replied "No.".

    Who wants to climb down a steep bank and try to get waterfall photos with that mess going on?
This hike was beautiful, but I need a do-over on it.   I will go back and hike it this way.
Sam Knob trail around and up to the summit.  Side trip down to the main falls in September when I
can enjoy seeing all the goldenrod.  I'd rather go through the week when there should be fewer people.   I don't mind climbing down the bank to photograph the falls, but I don't want to 
crawl the whole creek.   It is beyond my ability level at this point.  I don't know if I will ever be
straight again and able to do that. I hope I will, but I have no idea.

       I realized several things about myself.  
1. I need to recognize my limits and think things through honestly.
2. I need to communicate those limits honestly.  
3. I need to quit worrying about being rejected because of my limits.
4. I need to remember who I am dealing with.. Cathy and my true friends are not
going to be upset with me for my limits and for my change in abilities.

It is hard to face differences in myself sometimes.  I need to be nicer to myself and quit
acting like a stubborn ass.  :-)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Catoosa WMA Trip

Cardinal Flower blooming near the entrance to Catoosa

Catoosa WMA Four-Wheeling Trip

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Saturday August 16, 2014

44 mile ride

 Catoosa Photos

     Kenny and I did some scouting on Saturday morning to go riding in an area we wanted to
re-visit.  We had Plan A and Plan B and Plan C.   Plan A did not pan out.   We were unable to access the first area without risking getting in serious trouble.   We moved on to Plan B which was Catoosa.  I
admit I had leaned in that direction anyway. I foresaw how Plan A was going to work out, but sometimes
with Kooglers  you just have to let it go.  We headed up the road to explore Catoosa next.  Today would
be just that. Exploring. We knew nothing about the area.

         I had read up on the Catoosa area and learned a little of its history. I had also done a little studying up
on features there we might want to see and access points and directions.  Catoosa used to be a large grassland with sparse shrub growth and few trees.  It was presumably kept that way by the grazing of large herds of animals like buffalo, deer, and elk.   Several Indian tribes hunted here and used this area as a trade route, but did not settle here.  They likely maintained the grasslands by setting fires much the way we now do controlled burns.   Later "long hunters" came to the area not to settle, but to hunt game. The first outsiders who traveled here to settle described it this way: In 1797, Francis Bailey wrote, "...about five o'clock we arrived at Crab Orchard. Here we found a large plain or natural meadow, containing many hundred acres covered throughout its whole extent with a tall, rich grass." Two years later, in 1799, Martin Steiner wrote, "...then we crossed barren hills where only bushes grew. Now and then one saw a little tree."

    My blog is "Cumberland Gal". I am going to back up a bit to say it refers to the Cumberland Plateau and mountains of Tennessee.   The area is wild and beautiful to me and I so enjoy exploring there.  It provides
a solitude and an escape and a wildness I don't find in the Great Smoky Mountains.   I love both, but they are very different.  Especially the spirit of place.   Out in the plateau were Indian tribes, long hunters, exploiters of natural resources like miners and those who took its timber, and later settlers. Many who settled
here hail from the Scots-Irish, Swiss, German and a few English settlers seeking better lives.
Many of these settlers were idealists seeking freedom from religious persecution and freedom from a class
system that was like a social leg trap.. I find something good in all of that.   Many a story exists from the plateau and its wild places of families and individuals who survived grinding poverty. Some I cannot bear
to think on long because they are so extreme.   I am a conservationist, so what do I find good to say about
the taking of mineral wealth and the taking of the timber?  One thing is to start by saying its easy enough to judge them in hindsight from the distance of the twenty-first century.  It would have been quite different to be
there.  They did it to make a living and to survive.   The other thing is that while Tennessee has been mined and timbered...... they've found the Southern way to spin gold from straw!  The mined areas are being
restored and used for recreation opportunities that are marvelous fun for many.  ATV riding paradise.  Co-existing with mountain bikers, hikers,backpackers,  jeepsters, and horse and mule enthusiasts! 
Another example?  The deforestation caused by timber operations and devastation of the pine beetle infestation has caused another unique opportunity.  Instead of bemoaning the trees being gone.. through insight.. they are seizing upon the chance to re-create the grasslands and oak savannas that existed before!
It is all part of what you set your focus on.
Shawnee warrior on a buffalo hunt

       We have so much to learn about the Catoosa area we decided we'd just have to pick a point of entry and go from there.   Kenny asked me what I wanted to see there?  I was hoping for wildflowers and butterflies and pretty scenery.  Maybe a glimpse of a cool, pretty river?   I was most interested in the oak savanna restoration project so we followed the directions for that. We went in off Genesis Road.
I have passed by that road so many times. Peavine Road .. the same. I have gone past it, but never taken time to see what is out there.  I had the feeling I was missing something good. I found little info on wildflowers there, but what I did find was tantalizing.  It is one of the areas that has a population of monkey-faced orchids which are globally rare! It is also a site for prairie lily which has the botanical
name Lilium philadelphicum.  I read an excerpt from a botanist who said more work needed doing in the
Catoosa area to botanize and catalog what grows there.  My imagination was stoked now and I was ready
to go begin the search!
Tennessee Longhunter
       The drive in to access the area from Genesis Road was pretty.  It is quiet and rural and the scenery idyllic.  We soon came to the turn for Potters Ford and followed the directions to a turn out.  We were relieved to read the signs which indicated it is OK to ride four-wheelers at Catoosa as long as you stay on the trails that are signed for that purpose.  Some trails are either closed or signed "foot travel only".
Catoosa is near the Obed Wild & Scenic River. Potters Ford is at the far end of it.  I was hopeful of seeing
some different portions of the Obed.

 One of the first things I was rewarded to see was lots of beautiful purple New York Ironweed and this great spangled frittilary.  I wandered around taking wildflower photos while Kenny unloaded the RZR.   Some of the things I saw were:  wild basil, new york ironweed, rose pinks, ozark sunflowers, cardinal flower, pencil flower, cowbane, queen annes lace, goldenrod, and basil bergamot to name a few.
The Obed River at Potters Ford.  The first glimpse I got of the river was this spot. 
It brought tears to my eyes it was such a neat place.  When we pulled up there there was a family who had set up in a picnic spot across the river.  
They had a big banner up saying "Happy 91st Birthday Mamaw!"  They had bluegrass music playing.
It was she's a good ole gal.. best I've ever seen.  I thought to myself  THIS is the kind of birthday party I want for my next party.  My family and friends in a place like this with the beautiful river and country scenery
around me. What could be sweeter?  I can't think of a thing.  I saw green-headed cone
flowers blooming here.
I saw Summer phlox and more cardinal flower.  The river flowed by slowly.  It was deep green, clear, cool with sandy banks.  Tree limbs languished along the river sides dipping low toward the water. I love 
being a Southerner.  It is hot here in Summer, but the Lord gives us places like this that cool us off. Along the river in addition to the trees and wildflowers green great swaths of cane. 

Native Bamboo aka Cane along the Obed River. Native bamboo species or canes 
are important to all wildlife communities especially birds and butterflies. Some species depend upon them
heavily and it is important to allow stands of this to remain.

   We proceeded up the hill through more beautiful hemlock forest.  We came to the T intersection where we 
had to turn left to head out to toward Otter Creek and the oak savannas.  We enjoyed good weather today. It was overcast and about eighty degrees with a nice breeze blowing.   Being up on the table land of the plateau we could get occasional glimpses of the Cumberland Mountains in the distance.  Blue mountains far out there over expanses of fields with sparse trees and shrubs and grasses.  Birds and butterflies are coming back to this area as they see the results of the restoration project.   Today we saw a fair amount of wildlife.  
We saw fish and minnows in the streams, frogs, toads, a coyote, deer, turkeys, hawks, gold finches, a luna moth, tiger swallowtail butterflies, spicebush swallowtails, frittliaries to name the few I could really identify.

Top : We have entered that late Summer season of asters that will go on for the months of August, Sept. and October.  Goldenrod and false asters along the trail
Bottom: Glimpses of the blue Cumberland Mountains on the horizon across the oak savanna.

    Riding down these dusty red dirt trails and gravel roads was fun.  The scenery and mood changing every little bit.    I had the image in my minds eye of riding along over Granny's Crazy Quilt with all the varied textures, shapes and colors as we passed different scenery. The flower textures, shrubs, grasses, trees, all changing.  Pale lavender asters. Goldenrod with its mustard yellow glow.   Dainty white and yellow false asters delicate as a bridal veil.   Tall sunny yellow ozark sunflowers.  Far past that the blue line of mountains.
The green shades of the grass and shrub layer of the savanna.  It was what I had craved and needed today.
I was seeking the rough, unmanicured look of the plateau.  I also saw steeple bush today. It is a tall pink
flower that is a butterfly food.  It is a native spirea species. 
Steeple Bush above.  Its botanical name is Spirea tomentosa.  Another name for it is Rosy Meadow sweet.

       We also saw some unexpected things in Catoosa. We passed by two swamps!  The streams themselves were low water, but we did pass two good sized swampy areas.   We saw ostrich ferns four feet high.
Lush grasses and carpets of ferns and spaghnum mosses grew in these areas. Soft rush, spike rush, water lilies, and other wetland species grew there.  

Above and below.. images of two different swamps in Catoosa

 Below is an image of goldenrod, lespedeza, cowbane, queen annes lace  and other wildflowers blooming in the oak savanna. I waded right out into it.  I got chiggers for my trouble!

 Below is one shot of the folks with their covered wagon rigs and their horses and mules.  I like mules and so does Kenny. They are good looking animals and far easier to care for than horses.  What a great set up!  They were all very nice, friendly people and animals. We shared the trails courteously toward one another. We were considerate not to spook their mules and horses.  A good time was had by all.  These type trails were ideal for all.

Below see a close up of a type of aster.. Blazing star has several forms.  This is liatris squarrosa or Scaly Blazing Star.   It is so pretty. It was blooming along some parts of the roads and trails.

     We both began to feel tired.  We did not want to go home, but headed back toward the truck.
We talked over what to do next?   We explored another few trails and found a path through a hemlock forest.    It was gorgeous!  The river here was shady and green and cool. Deep and dark.

Hemlock Forest along the Obed

The Obed river in the Potters Ford area viewed through forest gloom.

     We were worn out.  Kenny looked at the odometer and we had ridden 44 miles!  It was so much fun it flew by.  We both wanted to go home and rest.    We've been burning the candle at both ends with work, grandkids, home fixer uppers...    We decided to slow down a little.

  Home it was for a nap and church on Sunday with the family.  Life is good. God is GREAT every day!

Thank you Lord for your created works and the chance to enjoy them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Look Rock Tower and Spruce Flats Falls --Two Hikes in One Day With Michael!

Michael with the Ninja Turtle Lunch Box

Look Rock Tower and Spruce Flats Falls --Two Hikes in One Day With Michael! 

"Nanny Cookie" aka Dana Koogler
and Grandson Michael Lindsey age 5

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Total hike distance 3 miles round trip

Pictures are here 

     I am now the grandparent of a kindergartener!  Michael started school this past Tuesday. 
They do things differently now and they go 1/2 day for two days the first week, 1/2 day every other day the second week, then the third week they go the normal schedule from 7:45 am to 2:45 pm.  
He is liking school a lot.  The days  he is off he is here with me.   We decided to get to the woods and enjoy 
Summer on Wednesday.  He is getting to be such a big boy now and can hike further. It has opened up lots
of possibilities as to what he can do and where we can go!  

      I asked him if he wanted to climb a tall tower and look off on Wednesday and then go to a pretty waterfall? He exclaimed YES!, but  ONLY if we can get in the river!  So it was agreed upon. 
We packed a picnic and some toys.  We took Dissy blanket.. yes. Dissy doesn't go to school, but it is
still important to take our security blanket on hikes. 

    We left the house about 9:30 am and drove up Foothills Parkway to Look Rock parking area.
I had a thought about getting him interested in the hike and drove a short distance past the parking area.
I turned around and headed the jeep back in the right direction and started slowly driving back. I found
a spot to pull over on the shoulder. I told Michael to get out of his car seat which he did.  He came up to the front of the jeep with me and I was able to point out the tower in the distance.  I asked what he saw?
His answer was a wide-eyed "Can we go there?!" We made it to the parking area and got ready to hike.
We gathered the camera and a small lunch box of stuff and hiked the 1/2 mile up to the tower. Nanny had to
stop and take photos of every thing because it was all fascinating to Michael. Mushrooms, leaves, bugs, rocks!   He had to climb on the rocks and eat a cookie.   He noticed the shortcut trail.. the unofficial trail up
to the tower. Who does that remind you of?   He did not find the hike up to be hard at all.  I had taken him
up there once before, but he was still a papoose then.  He has not been when he was old enough to recall
the trip until today.   He was astonished when he got the first glimpse of the tower from the trail.

       He ran up the ramps and was checking out the rocks and the surroundings. He was disgusted when he
realized we were not allowed to climb the spiral staircase or go up into the cab.   I know that feeling well.
He still enjoyed the view and told me he was just sure he could see my house down there!

Top: Look Rock Tower
Bottom: Michael enjoying climbing around on rocks

Checking out the view from Look Rock Tower out across Blount County, TN

     It was a new experience for Michael coming to the tower, but he did not find it that interesting.
He was ready to go see waterfalls and play in the creek.  He was unhappy that we had to drive in the jeep
to get to the next place.  I told him it was not far and to hang in there.  I bribed him with promises of a
visit to the visitor center store at Tremont.  I had not bought him anything in awhile and I can usually find him
something there that is a little educational as well as fun.   We made it there without too much complaining.
He enjoyed the visitor center and the staff there was so nice to him.   A lady was there and had brought her
little dog in the store for a short visit. He got to pet the dog and liked his name which was "Banjo".
He picked out a stuffed bear to cuddle and named him Scout.   We learned about bird banding. We learned about bears and what they do.   We had us a nice picnic lunch at the Tremont Institute on the grass.
Scout got up in a tree like bears do and did not get our picnic basket.   It was a chance for me to start educating him about NOT feeding bears or wildlife, chasing them, or otherwise harassing them.  I certainly
don't want him to fear wildlife, but respect it and enjoy it.  We had sweet tea, homemade lemonade,
turkey sandwiches, and homemade brownies for dessert.

         We did a quick Presto Chango into swim trunks. Grabbed our toys and walking sticks and backpacks and all our stuff and away we went down the trail. I had taken time back at the jeep once the Look Rock trail was done to ask Michael "Do you know how far you just walked? ONE MILE!" He was tickled at that and remarked "That was NOTHING!" And for him it really wasn't.  I then told him the hike to the waterfall would be one mile. He again said "That's nothing!" and true to form ... it wasn't for him.
He is a big, long legged boy for age five. He is in the 95 percentile for his age on height and weight.
He has an uncle who is about seven feet tall and Pawpaw is 6'4". He's a hoss.

       We hiked the trail out to Spruce Flats Falls and he was thrilled at seeing the water tower.
He really was intrigued by that.  He liked the log steps too.  He liked the narrow trail and the views.
He saw salamanders in the springs coming down over the trail. He loved the woods.  He held my hand and made sure Nanny did not fall or do anything unsafe.  He kept pointing out roots to me and rocky places and telling me to be careful.  A few times he got uneasy and wanted me to lift him down over a bad place which I did.  He is a leader already, but he is not embarrassed to ask for help when he needs it. He told me one time on the hike "I need your help. I'm just a little boy!"  We encountered another family on the trail who had
a little boy with them.  His name was Ian and he was also five!  It was his first trip to the waterfall and
he and Michael hit it off right away.    Michael is competitive and was determined he was going to get there
first. He got me by the hand and whispered "We can't let them beat us!"  He was pleased that we got there ahead of them.

    He was pleased at the first sight of the falls and was hollering WHOA!  but he also let me know right then that we needed to go right up to the falls!   First we need to play! So play we did.  We got in the creek and
visited with Ian and his family. He shared his toys with him and other kids.  It was very sweet. He threw rocks in the water, but was sure to be careful and only throw them in the water and not at people or anywhere near people.   The boys dammed the creek. The checked out crawdads, salamanders,and minnows.  Lots of time for building rock stacks and digging sand and rocks. 
Spruce Flats Falls
Michael & Ian playing together. It's great to be five!
Michael has found a stick that looks like a Pow Pow!   Woo Hoo was the mood of the day!

Sharing toys and digging sand and rocks. Putting them in the lunch box!

           The rest of the trip was not photographed.  Why?  Because we were too busy playing in the water.
Lots of families were here today with us.  All nice people. We were the only ones who were "locals".   Everyone else was on vacation. Everyone was in a great mood.   We visited with children and grown ups
of every stripe and description. They were all lovely.   The older kids were sweet as could be and had nets.
They were gently catching critters in the stream and bringing them over for the smaller children to see.
Michael got to touch a crawdad for the first time.   He could not believe that Nanny would pick it up!
The presence of the other families there really made it fun.

    Today's visit to Spruce Flats Falls was the most fun hike I've ever taken there. Hands down.
I have visited there too many times to count.  I had never climbed up into the waterfall until today.
I had never been swimming there before until today.  Today was a breath of fresh air with a little boy who
knows how to have a good time and takes the party with him where he goes.   We were sliding down a small cascade into the plunge pool. We got IN the waterfall and let it splash us and pelt us with cold drops of water.  We swam in the plunge pool.  Michael swam across on my back. I was like a momma bear.
It was great fun.   I will never forget it.   I could hear other kids and parents remarking about us.
I could not hear all of what was said.   Later a mother of two older daughters told me what she thought.
I figured she was going to correct me for teaching my grandson to be reckless.  She said she thought
it was great that we were having a good time, but being careful while doing so.  That is always a good policy.
Enjoy yourself. Have fun, but use some common sense.   It is not necessarily so common, eh?

    We spent 2 1/2 hours at the falls swimming and playing.   Finally we had to leave. We put on our dry shoes for the hike back.  We told our new friends good bye.  Michael had two brownies while I put my boots on.  He hopped, skipped, jumped, ran, and pretended to fly like an eagle along the trail on the hike back.   Thanks so much to the family who was behind us and played along with him being the hike leader!
He had that chest stuck out and was showing us how to get back to the parking lot.

        We put our things away. He told the other family good bye. We changed into dry clothes.
He hugged Scout and his blanket and we had only gotten as far as Townsend IGA when he konked out.
He slept all the way home. We played hard!  Five and one half hours outside and three miles of  hiking, swimming, sliding and rock throwing will do that to you.

          I look forward to more adventures and opportunties to teach my grandson to love outside!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cumberland Plateau Hiking and Exploring--Foster Falls & Coppinger Cove

Yellow Fringed Orchid Season is here!

Hiking and Exploring Foster Falls, Coppinger Cove & 
Sequatchie Cave State Natural Area

Dana  & Kenny Koogler
Sunday August 3, 2014

Foster Falls Photos

Coppinger Cove Photos 

   We stayed in the Super 8 Motel at Monteagle Saturday night. It was a good value.  It was decorated modern and clean as a pin.  I would stay there again based on the price, value and convenience. One thing I did not like was if you don't pay with a credit card they charge a $100 deposit.  For a single night stay we paid cash. I didn't feel good about that policy and I would prefer staying down in Jasper at the Comfort Inn next time. Note to self!  We slept well and 
got up the next morning and packed up to go get breakfast. We were both still so stove up  
from all that bone jarring ride toward the last of Saturday we were not interested in going riding today.   We opted to get some exercise in by hiking. 

        We didn't want to get into a lot today as we had a three hour drive home. 
Foster Falls was nearby and we thought we'd go there and hike a bit. We had camped there once and wanted to see if the rumors they had  updated the campground for RV camping were true?  
We went and found the place and it was still set up for tent camping only.   AsFar as I know
 there is no RV camping close to that area.  I read that Laurel Trails Campground closed up.   
We hiked the trail to Foster Falls first.

       We stopped by the overlook.  We checked that out and it was very pretty. It was a nice clear day and the view was good.   We headed down into the gorge to visit Foster Falls from the base.   The hike down is not long, but it is very scenic. It is a dark green hemlock forest in a gorge.   I recall the first time I saw it
in March  2002.   It was on a camping trip.   We stayed Friday and Saturday night.    We went climbing.
We got up early in the morning and hiked down to the waterfall on Saturday.  It was so pretty it inspired a
little impromptu romance in the woods hidden behind a huge boulder. We thought we were out of view.
What do you do when you are bathing in the afterglow of love and you hear applause from way up there somewhere......... on the cliffs?  Take a bow? Crawl in a hole?    We were heading across the suspension
bridge when Kenny got to retelling the story and I had to laugh.   Oh well... wouldn't life be boring as heck
if things always went according to plan?  Life needs spicy moments.  The older I get the more I am convinced of that.    The other take away ? NEVER trust rock climbers.  Sneaky little devils.

Suspension Bridge across the gorge heading to Foster Falls

Foster Falls from the base. It is about sixty feet high. 

    We soon arrived at the base of Foster Falls. It was as pretty as I remembered.  It sometimes dries up in Summer like many other falls in the Cumberland Plateau, but this one is the highest volume waterfall year round of all others.   We spent some time here just enjoying the view. I took time to work on learning to use my new camera and lenses better.  Kenny helped me some.   It is a work in progress.

        We hiked back out and were surprised it was not that bad.   Kenny had agreed to hike the power line cut with me. I wanted to botanize some today.   Our efforts were rewarded handsomely.  We found lots of orchids and other pretty flowers in the area.    Always remember that orchids like power line clearings! 
 Platanthera ciliaris-- Yellow Fringed Orchid.  
Hypericum gentianoides (Orangegrass) with the tiny yellow flowers.  Polygala curtissii --Curtiss' Milkwort with the pink drum shaped flowers.  If you get the chance to find orangegrass.. crush some and inhale its fragrance. It does smell delightfully like a fresh orange!  Other wildflowers seen today were:
lots of blazing star, fame flower, joe pye weed, maryland meadow beauty, blooming shrubs were sumac.. which smelled like the breath of Heaven. Unbelievably birds foot violet was still in bloom and it is August!
Saw gopher weed, but was not in bloom.  

 View from the overlook trail.   

We hiked part of the Fiery Gizzard Trail. It was pretty too.   

Top: Fiery Gizzard Bridge and Bottom: Gizzard Creek

     We wrapped up our hike at Foster Falls and decided to go hunt up a local fire tower.
The upper end of the road was unsigned so we missed the turn.  We soon found it though.
It was not the most interesting fire tower I've visited, but it was neat.  It is the Big Hill Lookout Tower in Jasper, TN.   It is in good repair.  I climbed it as far as I could, but the cab was locked. The steps had been restored, but it appeared the cab was original. The view from up there was still pretty even having to peer through the legs of the tower. 

Big Hill Fire Tower in Jasper, TN near Foster Falls.

View from up in the Big Hill Tower.  

    The drive out Fire Tower Road to visit the tower was pretty.  I saw lots of yellow fringed orchids just standing along the road!  Kenny was kind enough to stop and let me check them out.  We try to compromise on things. I put up with his rocky, rough ass trails and he puts up with my wildflower ramblings.  Together we are a great team!  One thing we talk about from time to time is my propensity for what appear to be trivial "useless" tidbits of information.  Our mutual love of exploring and outdoors is one of our greatest bonds.  Part of what makes that possible is my insatiable curiosity and my R2A2 for details that help bring us closer to finding things.
What is R2A2? It is W. Clement Stone's Formula For Success
Recognize, Relate, Assimilate, Apply (Action!) 
I used to work for W. Clement Stone's Combined Insurance Company.  It means that I did a lot 
of reading about goal setting, positive mental attitude, and learned about the 
reticular activating system of the brain..  It can be taught to function like one of those 
 computer programs running in the background that snaps to high attention when something
is pertinent to achieving a goal.  It recognizes "Thats for me".  about words,things on maps, people, that move me closer to finding things I want to find.  It is something Kenny has learned to put up with in me and just go with it. He has been on the other end of it where it pays off and we find things that seem to come out of nowhere.  They do come from somewhere.  They come from constant searching and scanning. I'm like a waterfall seeking, cave seeking, trail seeking, adventure seeking Fem Bot! 


Roadside lined with lots of yellow fringed orchids and a close up of one.

    Kenny is a good thing finder too. He realized just based on a wrong turn we'd made that we were very close to Coppinger Cove already!  We had wanted to head down into that area to see what we might run across for future trips.   It is the lower end of where we'd ridden on Saturday. We found what we were looking for with no trouble.  It is beautiful down in there!  

Twin Chimneys at the end of Coppinger Cove Road. The trail takes off right past this.

The trail crossing the river.   This is one of those moments when I'm looking into my 
Crystal Ball of the Future and I see all sorts of good times and fun adventures! 

The Little Sequatchie River . A stump in the foreground with steps nailed to it. 

A suspension bridge over the Little Sequatchie River at Camp Glancy. 

    The area down in that cove along the Little Sequatchie is a slice of Heaven on Earth.

We had seen a sign along the main road for Sequatchie Cave State Natural Area. I had not even heard of this.  We went back there to check it out before heading home.   It was lovely and we took a look at the spring and the cave before using this pretty spot to eat lunch and then start home.  

Blowing Spring-- a cave with a huge spring coming out. It is so large and cold it 
forms Owen Spring Branch.

Owen Spring. The water is so cold. I'm guessing 58 degrees. It feels like when you ford a stream 
in the Smokies in Winter.  Little hammers hitting your feet til they throb!
It is a day in August where it is sunny and 87 degrees! 

    We will be back here to have more adventures and do more exploring.  We have only scratched the surface.    What a fun trip. We headed out to face the long drive home. We will either try to get back over here to stay at Hales Bar Marina Campground next time or possible our favorite.. Raccoon Mountain Campground!  Good times to come!